By Luke Connell
Photographs by Josh Norris
When Bella Vision opened in 2014, Dr. Janet Wilson envisioned creating a boutique practice that would offer elite eyewear to the growing Spartanburg community.
“It’s just like a Coach bag. It’s just not as unique if you see it everywhere,” Wilson said. “We’re trying to offer something unique.”
“We love having patients come in and leave with something that they can’t wait to wear,” she said. “Eyewear has a huge following. We really enjoy being able to cater to people who want the classics but also give them something if they want to step outside the box.”
But Wilson’s practice isn’t all about choosing frames. Without expertly chosen lenses, stylish frames are only just another attractive accessory. And in keeping with her mission of offering the extraordinary, Wilson decided to fill another niche — vision therapy.
“Since vision therapy is very specialized, there were no nearby practices I could send my patients,” Wilson said. “I knew that there was a need, and I’ve spent an enormous amount of time dedicated to integrating vision therapy into the practice.”
Through vision therapy, Wilson works with patients to remedy eye issues, such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes), and visual processing. Through individualized, personalized treatment programs, Wilson works with her patients to correct visual-motor, perceptual and cognitive deficiencies.
Think of your vision this way: your eyes are the camera, actually capturing the image, but your brain interprets those images, discerning what you actually see. In addition to checking your eyes’ acuity — or its ability to read a letter on a chart — Wilson accesses your eye alignment, eye teaming (the eyes’ ability to work together), and eye focusing. When functioning normally, these processes work in concert, giving us the ability to see, perceive depth, and interpret the world. If one component isn’t functioning properly, then your visual system as a whole suffers.
In South Carolina, students are not required to undergo a comprehensive eye exam before starting school, and as many as one in five students have an undiagnosed vision problem. In some cases, those disconnects — an issue visually tracking words or lines while reading a paragraph, for example — make it difficult for students to read and recall information.
Adults, too, can benefit from vision therapy, including those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, have an undiagnosed vision problem, and even athletes looking to bolster their visual skills.
Just as with speech or physical therapy, vision therapy helps patients to rehabilitate, decrease symptoms and increase their potential. And while this therapy dates to the 1850s, new technologies have helped advance the practice in recent years. Through an individualized, personal plan, Wilson works with patients to train and rehabilitate connections between the eyes and the brain.
Wilson’s office is filled with tools to help patients overcome their vision issues. Depending on the treatment plan, patients might place various colored pegs into the holes of a spinning wheel or read a paragraph while wearing goggles that track eye movement and record the information into a computer.
Wilson works with a patient twice a week for three to six months, depending on the nature and severity of the patient’s condition. Patients also continue the work through home therapy. Throughout the process, patients meet with Wilson to determine their progress and assess their treatment goals.
Wilson said the easiest part of her practice would be prescribing glasses, but if a patient has an underlying binocular vision issue, then that’s not going to leave them happy or satisfied. Through vision therapy, she can help improve the lives of adults and change the educational futures of some struggling students. And, she can do so without sending patients away for treatment.
“It’s a really nice feeling to say to a patient, ‘You have this issue, but we can treat it here,’” Wilson said. “That’s a really good feeling for me.” E
Bella Vision is located at 1855 E. Main St., Spartanburg, S.C., or you can visit their website at www.bella-vision.com.